Yesterday was a good day for Sevco fans. Isn’t that something? They came to Celtic Park and took a point; more than that, they escaped the hiding many of them, and many of us, myself included, thought they were going to get.
Can you believe that this is what passes for positive over at Ibrox?
Remember a time when a day like today would have been two sets of fans relieved that the result had allowed them to enjoy New Year without rancour? Today many of us have the deep grumbles and they are celebrating it like a second Christmas.
Yesterday was a weird day for Scottish football; the commentators and sportswriters all admit the game was not a classic. Zero goals is a new and horrible low for Celtic in the Sevco fixture; even Ronny’s team scored against them. The match went by in the blink of an eye, but I can’t remember one thing about it that was interesting.
In the aftermath, as their fans were delirious and ours were venting frustration, Aberdeen played Hearts and dropped points. So yesterday might as well not even have happened. It was as if Scottish football simply lost a day. Nothing changed at the top of the league; even Hibs, the closest challengers in fourth, took a single point from their game.
We could all just have taken the day out and gone shopping or to see friends or played some Christmas board games with the kids. It was that kind of afternoon.
It’s just that Sevco fans enjoyed it more than the rest of us.
Which I find strange.
The Aberdeen result did them a favour, but not a great one. The Dons dropping points has certainly not made their position any worse, but nor has it improved one iota. They still sit in third. Hibs are still hot on their heels. Celtic still has a monster lead at the top. The Aberdeen result has done us more good than it’s done Sevco.
We go into a transfer window which now, for most Celtic fans, has a “so what?” quality to it. And by that I mean the constant rumours that Dembele is off. I want him to stay, but not like this, not with him mooching about, not with constant speculation dogging him every step of the way. If this is what we can expect it’s better to cut him loose and to do it right now. Otherwise get him into the office and ask him what it will take to commit the next two years to us. One way or another it has to end. Many Celtic fans would take the money, frankly, and if Dembele was on Larsson style form or showing flashes of it that would not be the case.
Other players will leave. Good. They should. There’s a growing feeling that we’re wasting our time on Stuart Armstrong. Many fans would not be sad to see him go. Sviatchenko certainly will; there’s a player whose time has simply run out. The manager won’t sell Lustig, but he should. Instead Gamboa will probably be allowed to go.
I wonder just what we’re keeping Eboue around for if the kid isn’t going to play. Is he fit? I honestly have no idea, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen when he’s played and reckon he’s a winner, as long as he’s going to be in the squad. We signed him one year ago, I understand that there’s a settling in period but shouldn’t he have seen more of the first team?
But overall this window will see us increase the overall strength of the squad, even if Dembele should head for the hills. Our club is in good shape, and if the players rest up, return ready to hit top form and the manager is willing to be a little flexible tactically then we should have an excellent second half of the season in front of us.
Not so at Ibrox, although the year has ended somewhat euphorically with everyone at their club rallying round Murty as if he was the Second Coming.
He has Brendan’s tactics figured out; I don’t think even the most optimistic Celtic fan would deny that. We need to change them up or the last two of these games are going to be frustration on top of frustration. But this is no longer a league where the games between teams from Celtic Park and Ibrox are going to materially affect the title race.
His record in his 12 games in charge is actually worse than that of Pedro Caixinha. Ponder that for just a second. Their form has not improved one bit. Murty can raise these guys for certain games, but leagues are not won on a handful of matches, they are won over the longer haul. McInnes knows that, which is why it’s his team sitting in second.
This guy now has the whole club as a chew toy, and he’s started in style by bringing Jimmy Nicholl in as his assistant, making it clear how things are going to be. Now, with Nicholl and John Brown in the building the character of the club is now set in stone. Think any new boss will be able to get rid of the assistant? I doubt it. This is the shape of the future.
Which leaves DoF Mark Allen in a somewhat strange place; he is at a club who’s nature he can now no longer properly deny. Who really believes he appointed John Brown as a scout? Who thinks this is the calibre of assistant he would have chosen? He is having his wings clipped just when what the club most needs is serious professionalism.
Sevco has developed a knack for avoiding the worst possible crises. Had Motherwell taken anything from them, and then Celtic inflicted heavy punishment yesterday the board would have been under real pressure to dispense with Murty and this doomed experiment; as it is, he remains in post with his position strengthened inside of a week.
Their club remains locked in a doomed spiral because of it.
They are still in dire financial straits. The manager wanted signings to go away with, but he’s been forced to recall loanees to augment the squad. There will be no pot of gold for signings and attempts to flog their dreck to England have resulted in snubs.
This is a club for whom nothing was improved yesterday; indeed, the smugness and arrogance of their players and fans and manager in the aftermath are setting the scene perfectly for further trouble not too far down the line.
This transfer window will show their limitations in stark contrast to those of Celtic.
I do not expect that their fans will be quite so euphoric when it ends.
If you had told Sevco fans all this at the turn of the year 2016-17 they would have dismissed it all as Celtic fans wishful thinking. They could not see past a summer where a new manager would get a hefty war-chest and a year in which they mounted a challenge.
Are they closer to it than they were last year? I would say quite the opposite. They are further away from it than ever before. They end the year delighted to have avoided a Celtic Park beating of epic proportions. They scored a point. It didn’t move them one fraction.
This is what passes for good news there.
That’s the kind of year it’s been for them.